Level 3: A bit of a mash up

Level 3 was a bit of a mash up between Level 1 & 2. It began with another day of learning as per Level 2, followed by the long days sailing and long nights sleeping of Level 1. Limited wind, limited drama, sunshine and A LOT of learning meant it was a good way to spend a week! I’ve returned a whole lot less knackered but looking a whole lot more like a teabag for it.

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Relaxing on the ever-so-spacious Clipper 70

The first day of Level 3 was spent in a classroom learning the official ISAF way not to die. Needless to say, quite a lot of sugar and coffee was required to stay alert through the day, but after several hours of numb bum syndrome, it was back to Gosport Marina. This week we were staying in the very Clipper 70ft yachts we’ll be racing around the world in – no more tiny 68ft boats for us.

Each day we woke up at 6.30am for a rather early breakfast at 7am before heading off sailing for the day, returning sometime after 9pm. The theme for this week was repetition: hoist hoist hoist, tack tack tack, gybe gybe gybe, drop drop drop but STILL I managed to get something wrong pretty much every single time.

Asked to lead something: got it wrong.

Asked to solve a problem: got it wrong.

Asked to hop on the pedestal and spin my arms furiously: now there’s my niche!

I definitely think I’m better suited to being an obedient rower in this situation rather than the cox. I’m consoling myself that at least its better to make these mistakes cruising the Solent rather than racing across the Atlantic. Think it might be a bit more important to get it right then.

A select few Team-Huwers on deck
A select few Team-Huwers on deck

The week had plenty more stand-out moments, albeit a little random when you put them all together:

“Apple chat” – an example of the many comedy moments experienced on the boat. As a result of this, I’ve decided than Sean from my crew is an ideas machine and that Huw is definitely good value when it comes to amusing conversation.

Helming with the Spinnaker up – this is basically the huge sail you can have at the front of the boat that puffs right up. I really enjoyed helming during my previous 2 weeks of training, but it was a different kettle of fish with this flying. The challenge was to keep the sail inflated at all times; move too far one way and it would deflate. Move too far the other, and it would deflate. Was definitely feeling the tension with that sail up.

Wooling & singing – after the mild peril of managing the spinnaker whilst it was flying, each time we retrieved it, we had to stretch the damn thing the length of the boat, roll it up, then tie it with wool every meter or so. As fun as this sounds, it was made even more so doing this at the front of the boat below decks, the result being two of us feeling a little queasy whilst sail-wrangling. The upside of this was that I discovered singing helps fend of sea sickness for me. Unfortunately, the only songs I could think of were Enya “Sail away” and “Tequila, it makes me happy”. Level 3 was indeed a musical mash up.

Happy bowline faces
Happy bowline faces

Tying one-handed bowlines – given that I used to really struggle doing this knot with two hands, I now feel like a pro being able to tie a loop around myself with one hand. Good if I end up off the boat needing to tie myself back on. Bad if I end up off the boat trying to tie myself back on and accidentally chop my hand off in the process of doing so (quite likely). I’m going to stay on the boat and save that knot as a party trick instead.

Lovely view of the boat being deep cleaned as I nursed my head. Fool.
Lovely view of the boat being deep cleaned as I nursed my head. Fool.

Stepping up into the boom – wouldn’t recommend this one. I ended up spending my last hour on the boat with an icepack on my head after walloping my head. I think I may be genetically pre-disposed to this as my dad has a sailing helmet, he’s hit his head so often. Calamity Hartwell.

Finally, the thing that’s really made all of these training weeks so far are the people I’ve met. It’s amazing how quickly & easily you get on with people literally all in the same boat, even when you release the full crazy (important that my future crew-mates are prepared). For example, Ros & I took up the comedy challenge of coming up with ever increasingly ridiculous things that we should buy for the boat from the crew fund (Ros, this makes you a most excellent person).  Our future skipper despaired at this somewhat, but unfortunately for him, it only made it more amusing. So far we have planned an on-deck jacuzzi with gazebo to go over the top and drink cocktails in.

Clipper 70 Post-Jacuzzi installation. Only minor modifications required.
Clipper 70 Post-Jacuzzi installation. Only minor modifications required.

I also suggested a stopover challenge for crew to dress up as ninjas and trophy other team’s mascots (a fair bit of wine had been quaffed by this point). Unreasonably, Huw was not impressed. I think it’s a cracking idea.

I’m now off to find 22 ninja suits ready for team building in June before returning to Gosport for Level 4 in August. It’s going to feel a long 2 months before I get on a sailing boat again; can’t wait for final week of training!

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